By Dave Vest NASHVILLE – The Coyotes will complete a three-game trip with a game tonight against the Nashville Predators. The puck drops at 5 p.m. (Arizona time).
Phoenix (46-23-5) last played on Tuesday night and lost, 2-0, to the Chicago Blackhawks to end a nine-game winning streak.
"We're fine," Coyotes center Vernon Fiddler said when asked to describe the team's mood after Tuesday's loss. "We know we're not going to win every game and we had a good run there, but we're ready and we're excited to start another one. Our motto this year is we don't lose back-to-back games and that's how we're approaching this game."
Ilya Bryzgalov will be in goal for the Coyotes, who could clinch their first NHL playoff berth in eight years if they beat Nashville tonight and the Calgary Flames lose to the New York Islanders in regulation. That game starts one hour before Phoenix's game.
Regarding the Predators, whom the Coyotes have already beaten twice this season, Fiddler is expecting a tough challenge.
“They’re a team that you've got to outwork every shift," said Fiddler, who played six seasons for Nashville before signing with the Coyotes last summer. "You can't give up neutral-zone chances against them because they are a very good transition team and they have guys that can score. If we're going to be successful against them we're going to have to minimize turnovers against them in the neutral zone and get the puck down low behind their d-men."
Nashville (42-27-5) also saw a lengthy win streak come to a close on Tuesday when it lost, 3-1, to Dallas to snap a six-game victory run.
“You have to have a short-term memory, and the biggest game of the year is coming up now," Head Coach Barry Trotz told reporters.
The Preds will enter the game in seventh place in the Western Conference standings just six points ahead of ninth-place Calgary.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Tonight’s game will be broadcast on KFNX 1100 (AM) News-Talk Radio and not XTRA Sports 910.
Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov has won seven of his past eight starts and leads ths NHL with eight shutouts.
Despite Tuesday's loss, Predators goalie Pekka Rinne is 6-1-0 with three shutouts in his past seven games.
Coyotes center Robert Lang continues to nurse a lower-body injury that has caused him to miss the past nine games. "He was moving ahead but then he had a little bit of a setback three or four days ago, so we're moving slow with him," Head Coach Dave Tippett said. "I don't think we'll see him (play) this week, but maybe the week after."
Coyotes center Vernon Fiddler may have to leave the team abruptly before the game starts. Fiddler's wife is back in Phoenix and just about ready to give birth to their second child. Fiddler wants to be there when the baby is born and he has the team's blessing to leave when the time comes.
The Coyotes have won just two of the past 12 games they have played in Nashville.
"They've got a similar team to ours. (They are) a hard-working team. They don't have a guy with 80 or 90 points so it's going to be a hard-working game."